Fifteen little boys sat on hard benches in the synagogue and tried to pay attention as the rabbi droned on from the writings of Moses. One boy was about half the size of the others. He hated school and he hated the other fourteen boys. They made his life miserable. They were unmerciful in their ridicule of him. He was a “runt, half-pint, Pee Wee.” They picked him up and tossed him around like a ball. They refused to allow him on their teams; he made them lose. While the rabbi examined the Sabbath laws with the class, Zaccheus made plans for revenge. He fed his bitterness and anger by justifying his hate with the actions of others. He was on the receiving end now, but one day he would get even!
The boys grew up. Zaccheus became an adult with a child’s body. The Roman government employed him as a tax collector – and he got even! By collecting far too much money and pocketing the extra, Zaccheus became enormously wealthy, selfish, and lonely.
The news was that the great prophet Jesus was coming to town. Out of curiosity, Zaccheus made his way to the road on which Jesus would travel. He never expected such a huge crowd! He pushed, shoved, and tried to elbow his way through the sea of humanity to no avail. It was fun to keep little, despised Zaccheus in the back! Totally frustrated, he spied a tree just a bit up the road and perched on a limb overhanging the route. Here, he had a great view away from the riffraff. Smugly, he waited for Jesus.
Try for a moment to imagine the shock Zaccheus felt when Jesus walked under the limb, looked straight into his eyes, and said, “Get out of the tree, Zaccheus. I’m coming over to your house.” He very nearly fell out of the tree, but he managed to climb down and hurry home to make preparations for his guest. The crowd stood in indignant amazement at Jesus’ judgment. Of all the homes He could have chosen to visit! Zaccheus through the eyes of God, not through the eyes of man.
Jesus and Zaccheus talked that day. Zaccheus opened his heart and poured out his hurt and anger. When it was empty, Jesus made it over – new-and filled it with love only He can give. Zaccheus recognized Jesus that day, and he was never the same. He stopped being a “taker” and became a “giver.” He got a stack of money and ran every step to town. He sought out each and every person he had cheated and paid them back four times what he owed them. He gave a lot that day. He gave forgiveness to those fourteen school mates. He gave the grace of Jesus to all he met. He gave his heart to Jesus, and that necessitated giving to others.
Use these contemplative days of Lent to visit with Jesus. Empty your heart of hurt and anger and let it be filled instead with grace. Become a “giver” not a “taker” as you journey. Monica Boudreaux